International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 133, Issue 2, pp 479–481 | Cite as

Criminal mercury vapor poisoning using heated tobacco product

  • Masahito HitosugiEmail author
  • Misa Tojo
  • Masateru Kane
  • Naoto Shiomi
  • Takeshi Shimizu
  • Tetsuo Nomiyama
Case Report


We report an unusual case of mercury vapor poisoning from using a heated tobacco product. The suspect had added grains of mercury into 20 cigarettes in a pack. When a 36-year-old Japanese man inserted one of these cigarettes into the battery powered holder, it was heated to a temperature of 350 °C, and he inhaled vaporized mercury. After using 14 of the cigarettes over 16 h, he noticed he had flu-like symptoms so he visited the hospital. Although no physical abnormalities were revealed, 99 μg/L of mercury was detected in his serum sample. His general condition improved gradually and his whole blood mercury level had decreased to 38 μg/L 5 days later. When the remaining six cigarettes in the pack were examined, many metallic grains weighing a total of 1.57 g were observed. Energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectrometry confirmed the grains as elemental mercury. Accordingly, the victim was diagnosed with mercury poisoning. Because the mercury was incorporated into cigarettes, an unusual and novel intoxication occurred through the heating of the tobacco product. Both medical and forensic scientific examination confirmed this event as attempted murder.


Mercury vapor Poisoning Heated tobacco product Blood concentration Crime 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed consent

Written informed consent for publishing this scientific report was obtained from the victim of this case.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Masahito Hitosugi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Misa Tojo
    • 1
  • Masateru Kane
    • 1
    • 2
  • Naoto Shiomi
    • 3
  • Takeshi Shimizu
    • 4
  • Tetsuo Nomiyama
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Legal MedicineShiga University of Medical ScienceOtsuJapan
  2. 2.Forensic Science LaboratoryShiga Prefectural Police HeadquartersOtsuJapan
  3. 3.Emergency and critical care medicineSaiseikai Shiga HospitalRittoJapan
  4. 4.Department of OtorhinolaryngologyShiga University of Medical ScienceOtsuJapan
  5. 5.Department of Preventive MedicineShinshu University School of MedicineMatsumotoJapan

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